Connecting Smart Buildings and Smart Grids

Have you ever heard of the smart grid? Well, the smart grid is an automated technology used for utility delivery, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

And it can be used to save energy.

After building new facilities and retrofitting existing buildings to make them “smarter” and more energy efficient, the next step is to connect these smart buildings with the smart grid for optimal efficiency.

Smart buildings are sophisticated systems, but they’re still largely isolated from the grid. Making smart buildings interactive with the grid by implementing two-way communication between the grid and the building will impact our energy future substantially.

“There has been a lot of talk about the opportunity for connected, responsive smart buildings that are interoperable with the smart grid. The reality, however, is that the development of smart buildings and the smart grid is taking place almost entirely independently of each other,” says IDC Energy Insights research manager, Marcus Torchia, in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch.

“Vendors, building owners, and utilities are missing a major market opportunity in both the short and long term if they don’t consider adopting business practices to accelerate and expand the deployment of interconnected smart buildings,” he says.

Johnson Controls, a company offering products and services to increase operational efficiency, explains that the smart grid is effective only when smart buildings are interconnected with it. Our grid is exhausted because of increasing demands and the varying availability of renewable energy resources.

When grids and buildings are linked, demand is monitored and delivery is adjusted appropriately. Integrating building controls with the smart grid means equipment can operate in off-peak periods, but be shut down during peak periods, minimizing grid strain and giving buildings access to less expensive energy.

Johnson Controls says that all smart buildings must have most of the following features for optimal energy efficiency and to successfully work in conjunction with the smart grid:

  • Energy load coordination
  • Advanced control of HVAC, lighting and any other energy systems, including data collection, to increase performance
  • Diagnostics and reporting functions, with integrated automation to measure energy and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Ongoing two-way information exchange between the grid and the building
  • On-demand response to pricing signals received from the grid

As Johnson Controls reports, US buildings use 18% of the total energy and 36% of the electricity nationwide. Using smart building technologies could save $33 billion in energy costs and reduce carbon emissions by as much as 160 million tons annually by 2030.

Plant Services has highlighted IBM’s Center of Excellence for Enterprise Operations in Burlington, Vermont as an example of a facility successfully connecting building technology and the smart grid. Sixty thousand meters and sensors are utilized in the facility to track data from water systems, the electrical grid, utilities and the building.

Interconnected systems use all the data collected to improve performance with access to advanced analytical information. IBM’s facility has won awards for its efforts in saving energy from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable and Environmental Protection Magazine, and it has received recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Institute for Building Efficiency devotes a section of its website to providing information on smart grids and smart buildings. It offers several resources, tools and articles to give business owners/building managers more information.

Watch this video from Cisco to see just how dynamic the idea of combining smart grids and smart buildings is.

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One comment

  • Thanks for an interesting and informative post !!!!!

    December 21, 2012

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